At a news conference Tuesday, WSU President Kirk Schulz introduced John Johnson as interim athletic director and provided details on the search that has begun for a new athletic director
Washington State’s next athletic director will be someone of integrity, who has experience running an athletic department and who’s a proven fundraiser.
Those were the qualities WSU President Kirk Schulz highlighted during a news conference held Tuesday to introduce John Johnson as WSU’s interim athletic director.
In fielding questions from the media, Schulz stressed that experience was of significant importance in WSU’s search for a new athletic director to replace Bill Moos, who was just hired at Nebraska.
“I don’t think this is the type of athletic director job where we need somebody who’s going to learn on the fly,” Schulz said.
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However, the seven-member search committee tasked with finding Moos’ successor as athletic director will consider different types of experience.
“I think we want to cast a broad net, so I don’t want to start saying we have to have a sitting AD at a Power Five school. We have to see what’s out there and what experience base those individuals have,” Schulz said.
WSU’s president said the committee will be aided by a search firm, which he expects to select in several weeks. Schulz said he hopes to have a permanent athletic director in place around Feb. 1, 2018.
“We’re gonna look nationally for the absolute best candidates, whether they are in our backyard or somewhere else. It doesn’t make any difference. There’s no hand-selected two or three people we want to consider,” Schulz said. “We are going to make sure we have a diverse pool with respect to seeking women and under-represented minority candidates as well. You can do it quickly, but I want to make sure we spend the time to do it right.”
In the meantime, effective Wednesday, John Johnson, currently the senior associate director of athletics, will lead the Cougars as interim athletic director.
Johnson is a Spokane native who has worked in the WSU athletic department since 2004. Johnson said Tuesday he will not be a candidate for the permanent position though he hopes to stay on at WSU after the new athletic director is hired.
“Typically in searches…when the interim person is eligible (for the job) other folks may not apply,” Johnson said, explaining why he will not contend for the permanent position. “I think (a wide applicant pool is) very important. I care about WSU very much. It’s been a great part of my life and my professional life. … I hope to be able to stay on and plan to stay on to work with the new AD to make the program better.”
Johnson and Schulz said the Cougars will continue fundraising efforts for student-athlete scholarships and also to fund construction of the new baseball clubhouse and for renovations to the swimming facilities and a new academic center.
Schulz met with the athletic department staff for an hour Tuesday, then met with all the coaches before sitting down with football coach Mike Leach for a meeting that ran about 75 minutes, he said.
Schulz said Leach reiterated to him what he said in his Monday news conference – that he intends to remain at WSU.
“We love him being here, he’s done a lot for WSU and we’re committed to doing what is needed to keep him as our football coach,” Schulz said. “Clearly, we want our next athletic director to be someone who’s going to continue to build around our football program and all of our other sports. And my expectation is that we’ll bring in somebody who has a great working relationship with Mike.”
Leach is not on the athletic director search committee – women’s basketball coach June Daugherty represents the WSU coaching constituency on the committee – but Schulz told Leach he’ll “continue to personally keep him updated” as the search process unfolds.
“I’ll certainly have conversations with him and other key individuals when we get down to the end and have a couple people we’re looking at,” Schulz said. “Mike has clearly said, ‘I’m here to help, this is your hire. I want somebody I can work with and with whom we can be successful.’”
Schulz and Johnson said they were both surprised when the news of Moos’ departure for Nebraska broke on Sunday morning. Schulz was flying back after a fundraising event in Denver, and he found out about Moos leaving when he turned on his phone upon landing in Seattle and saw a flurry of calls and texts.
“In my conversation with Bill after, he said the University of Nebraska said it was really important that it be kept completely confidential,” Schulz said. “I will say, in the world of athletics, this is not uncommon. It wasn’t a personal slight. Sometimes these things are kept confidential until the very last minute.”
Schulz did not directly answer a question about whether Moos came to him seeking a contract extension before he took the Nebraska job.
“I’ve seen the different reports that there was this conversation or there wasn’t. We’re just gonna look forward and I’m worried about finding the next athletic director. I’m not gonna worry about the stuff out there,” Schulz said. “I wish Bill the best at Nebraska, I know he did a lot for us here and we had a really good working relationship in his tenure as athletic director. He was very helpful to me as a new president from outside the state of Washington.”
Schulz addresses budget deficit and Pac-12 network concerns
Based on most updated figures, WSU athletics is likely to close fiscal year 2017 with around a $8.5 million deficit. Schulz said Tuesday that he’s hopeful the deficit will be down to $7 million by the end of the next fiscal year, and added that the athletic department’s deficit will probably run another three fiscal years.
“It’s critical for me and for the university to get back in the black, but not just to get in the black but to get to the point where we have additional dollars coming in to invest in coaches, student-athletes and facilities,” Schulz said.
Schulz also expressed disappointment at the revenue the Pac-12 Network has netted for the Pac-12 schools.
“The original projections made way before I was here was that there was going to be substantial revenue coming in to the different members of the Pac-12,” Schulz said. “While we have exceeded some lower level expectations, I think the Pac-12 Network is still not providing the sort of dollars the other schools in the SEC and Big Ten get from their conference networks.”
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News reported in August that the Pac-12 Network generated about $2.5 million of revenue per school in the last fiscal year.
“This is a concern of the Pac-12 presidents and I can tell you it’s a large discussion point with meetings with the commissioner at every single meeting. Because everybody needs these revenues to be competitive, not just within the Pac-12, but hey, the Pac-12 schools have got to be competitive with ACC, the SEC and the Big Ten and Big 12, and we’re falling behind,” Schulz said.